Caribbean Dreams

Sep 1, 2005

Venezuela's Petrocaribe aims to help the Caribbean cope with rising oil prices. But with payments deferrable for 25 years, someone's going to be left holding the bag.

Relief for small island economies dependent on increasingly expensive oil imports has arrived in the form of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. He has created Petrocaribe, an association that incorporates the 14 member states of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom), as the first step in achieving Simon Bolívar's dream of uniting Latin America – and Chávez's own dream of expanding his political reach across the region. "We have the biggest oil reserves in the world and the biggest gas reserves in the continent and we want to share them," says Chávez, with customary exaggeration. He is pursuing a similar agreement with the rest of South America, called Petrosur. The Caribbean countries signed up to participate in the Petrocaribe venture in late June. Regardless of Chávez's political motives, his initiative could have a profound effect on many of the region's smallest economies. Cuba has been benefiting from cheap Venezuelan oil financing...

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